An inspiring female Muslim football coach who has transformed the lives of hundreds of youngsters in Birmingham through sport has been crowned with the TSB Community Hero award at the Pride of Birmingham awards for using football to help get boys off the streets.
Asha Rage, 45, started her scheme seven years ago when she set up Dream Chasers FC, a football team based in Alum Rock with more than 160 youngsters training weekly.
The club turned out to be more than just a football club, helping build bridges in the community by forming bonds with local police officers, embarking on litter-picking sessions, offering English lessons to migrant parents and handing out food parcels during the cost of living crisis, Birmingham Mail reported.
More recently, Asha and her community of players have been handing out food to those struggling with the cost-of-living crisis and have produced hundreds of Ramadan pack for Muslims.
Receiving the award, Asha said, “I can’t put it into words – it’s so good to be recognized.”
“This is something I’ve never felt in my life – to be recognized for the job I’m doing is so special. All that matters to me is that I’m making a difference to young people’s lives. ”
“I came to this country as a refugee with one 10kg bag and two children – but I didn’t feel sorry for myself – I worked hard to make a difference in my community. I don’t even know who nominated, but I just want to keep doing the job that I’m doing.”
Birmingham City captain Troy Deeney, a judge for this year’s awards, said schemes like this inspired him to get into football.
“When you look at the area she works in, to have a woman go against the cultural grain is incredible – anyone willing to break barriers deserves all the recognition they get. Her story jumped off the page when I first read it – with my roots in the area I can understand just how difficult the task she faced is, not only to deliver the program but to get people involved too.
“As someone who grew up in Birmingham, schemes like this are the reason I got to play football in Chelmsley Wood – it was a safe environment that my mum would let me go to. She has changed so many lives.”
Asha’s award follows a long list of Muslim women honored for their effort in the community.
In May 2021, several Muslim women were among 14 ‘Hometown Heroes’.
England’s first hijab-wearing boxing coach Haseebah Abdullah is one of those honored.
The list also included Naseem Akhtar, who has spent more than 20 years encouraging thousands of women in Birmingham to transform their lives through physical activity.
Yasmin Nessa, co-founder of Saltley Stallions Women’s Football Club, and Salma Bi, coach, umpire and fundraiser, and director of Sporting Pathways, Birmingham, are also among Muslims on the list.